.posted by peter.
written two weeks ago, but posted belatedly due to technical difficulties.
So far it’s been a pretty busy summer (hence the lack of posts).
Mary’s been working tons driving people up the Dalton Highway
to the Arctic Circle
, and I’ve been consumed with work and an intensive five week Abnormal Psychology class that I’ve been taking at the University.
The final is this Thursday and I’m looking forward to two months with no schoolwork so that I can focus on finishing the pile of books that have accumulated half read from this past year – a bad habit of mine.
At least I finish them eventually!
We crested the solstice hump last week, and I’m looking forward to having a nighttime again in about, oh, three weeks or so. Really, I love the light, and don’t have too much trouble sleeping, I just tend to miss the stars because they’re so brilliant up here. Also, since I work at the local Mental Health agency, I’ve noticed a lot of the clients having problems with getting adequate rest and knowing when to wind down. (When you work with the severely mentally ill, ‘wind down time’ is a nice part of the evening.) Clients with mood disorders, or schizoaffective disorder (sorta like bipolar but with psychotic features thrown in as a special added bonus) fair the worst it seems.
The bugs haven’t been as bad as I expected. Mary says up north they’re a whole lot worse. Personally, I don’t really mind mosquitoes all that much…I can relate to them, hey, they’re just looking for a hot meal. Plus, they smush pretty cleanly, and I myself don’t get welts from their bites. Flies and wasps though, are a different story. They like to hang out on poop and eat rotting animals, and that I just don’t understand. Really it’s the wasps that are causing us the main headaches. It’s actually been sort of epic.
Two or three weeks ago, Mary and I were planning a big, dire Solar post about the wasp situation. Fortunately, it has mellowed considerably, due to some cooler wetter weather. You see wasps are much more common up here than most anywhere else. The dry conditions of Alaska’s interior and a curious lack of natural predators make for perfect wasp country. (Actually voles really like eating wasps, but the vole population has been low the last few years.) Anyone who was in Fairbanks last summer will tell you that it was one of the worst seasons in memory - two folks died in town from anaphylaxis and pretty much everybody got stung at LEAST once. Everyone except for Mary, that is, who somehow escaped me and Nyssa’s unfortunate run in with the hive last August while we were all going for a walk. I was stung twice and my leg swelled up, turned beet red, and I developed a short lived benadryl addiction. Nyssa got stung so many times we were certain she’d at least get some nasty hives (since she’s very prone to them) and we had the emergency vet clinic number right by the phone all night. Miraculously she was fine. We counted 20 stings on her stomach alone.
Finally fall came and the wasps just dwindled and vanished from our lives. I had forgotten all about them until sometime in late May when they began to reappear. A spate of hot, dry weather invited all the dormant queens up from their slumber, and suddenly a nesting frenzy ensued. Everyday for a week we woke up to four or so wasps IN our cabin, and my mania began. I was being threatened in my home, and that is unacceptable.
I built soda bottle traps. I bought multiple forms of wasp spray. I bought spray insulation/sealer to shore up the cabins’ cracks and crevices. I even bought a long ladder so that I could have access to the eaves for spraying. When I submitted a request to our finance department for a turbo-charged handheld fogger weapon, it was rejected by finance minister Mary, but I still have aides working on the acquisition and one never knows in this town.
I was very worried about Duncan, the kitten. He has turned out to be an enthusiastic hunter of the wasps, and has no respect for their deadly power. On several occasions, I have had to hold/restrain him with one arm while slaughtering one of the window crazed fiends with the other. He once in fact executed a lunge toward one which resulted in him completely falling down the stairs (with a loud thud) only to immediately resume his pursuit. I admire his determination, and he can indeed be quite formidable (just ask Nyssa), but I doubt that even the most adrenaline fueled confrontation would go well for him. Fortunately, he has gradually mellowed in his response as the summer has progressed.
As much as it has worried me, Duncan’s interest has provided one very valuable asset to our struggle against the wasps. He’s like the canary in the mine. If the kitten is in a strange place or position, and very intent on something, nine times out of ten I can be sure that he’s found a wasp. I get a wasp killing device on my way and am ready when I arrive.
The best tool in my arsenal is the tennis racket shaped bug-zapper. You push a button, and the wired face of the zapper-racket electrifies. I use it by catching the wasp between the zapper and the window (or other surface), firing the juice, and then rubbing it around a bit so it can get exposure to multiple strands. Now, it’s important to note, that this will not kill the wasp. It only stuns them for a while. Death waits for them on the porch. I lay them down on the far edge away from the door for crunching, because smushed wasps and bees release a chemical that attracts others. Now, personally, if I knew some massive and inexplicable being was smushing people nearby, my response wouldn’t be to approach, but wasps, they aren’t like you and me. You can’t reason with them, and many of their behaviors are counter-intuitive, so it’s hard to stay ‘one step ahead.’ Nor do they act at random. Everyone in this town that I’ve asked for advice has said something different. In general, I find them to be a loathsome and vexing adversary.
Fortunately, June has been rainy enough to greatly minimize their activities. Also, I’ve heavily poisoned most of their haunts, and sealed up the cabin better. My traps haven’t worked yet, but I keep trying. So far I’ve caught hundreds of flies in one of my homemade soda bottle/smelly fish traps, but hardly any wasps. Flies I can do without as well, due to their aforementioned unwholesome enthusiasms. Still, they mostly keep to their territory, that being in the woods and in the outhouse (which just makes sense), and I respect them for that. And really, in all seriousness, I don’t have anything against wasps as long as they stay in the woods and don’t truly reproduce out of all proportion - they eat garden predators and have as much right to live as any other beast. But if they make a nest in my eve or under my porch, or come into my home and threaten me and mine, they will die. Simple as that.
Life on the frontier is hard. We face many challenges. Lack of a Dairy Queen is another example. But of course the rewards are many – summer has been beautiful. Next Monday or Tuesday we’re planning to go canoing, since my class will be over and neither of us work those days. And hopefully soon I can tag along on one of Mary’s sojourns to the Arctic Circle!